Wilkerson wins

November 17, 2006
By

JOHN RUCH

Dems sweep election

State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson crushed Republican opponent Samiyah Diaz in the Nov. 7 election—just one ripple in a wave of Democratic victories in the state and nationwide.

Democrat Deval Patrick won the governor’s seat in an election that left the state Republican Party in tatters.

Also going down in flames were all three ballot questions, including one that would have allowed wine sales in grocery stores.

But the biggest loser may be the Boston Election Department, which had its second major blunder of the election season, this time failing to provide enough ballots at several polling places.

Wilkerson, who failed to make the ballot in the primary election, stormed back in the final election, pulling a landslide 71 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Still, Wilkerson was battered by her litany of legal and financial problems, which was Diaz’s main issue in the race. Wilkerson still faces the resolution of a state lawsuit alleging illegal campaign contributions and various campaign finance reporting problems; her possible appeal of a recent civil judgment against her for unpaid condo fees; and a “review” of a possible perjury charge in a criminal case by Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley. Wilkerson’s challenger is now gone, but her challenges remain.

Wilkerson’s popularity as a seven-term incumbent also remains. She has a history of delivering legislative victories in tune with the district’s priorities, and may have even more opportunities under a Democratic governor.

Wilkerson and Diaz were not immediately available for comment.

Among several strange plot twists in the state Senate campaign was the city’s failure to count thousands of votes in the all-write-in primary election. That problem came despite federal monitoring of Boston elections for previous allegations of civil rights violations.

On Election Day last week, at least 27 unspecified Boston polls ran out of ballots, forcing voters to wait in line until new ballots were delivered. Many reportedly gave up.

It is unclear whether any of the affected polling places were in JP. Mayor’s Office spokesperson Jennifer Mehigan declined to release the current list of affected polls, saying it is incomplete and will be publicized later. The Gazette has not received any complaints. Neither has the voting rights organization MassVOTE or at-large City Councilor Felix Arroyo’s office.

However, the Gazette has learned from a poll worker that the Ward 10, Precinct 9 poll at the James M. Curley School ran out of ballots and had to borrow more from the Ward 19, Precincts 1 and 3 poll at the Mary E. Curley School next door. But no voters had to wait.

Secretary of State William Galvin is taking control of Boston elections as a result of the blunders.

“He intends to issue an order to take over supervision of the Boston Election Commission and the Boston Election Department,” said spokesperson Brian McNiff. The supervision would begin with next year’s election cycle.

Mehigan said that Mayor Thomas Menino finds the ballot shortage “unacceptable, and we are doing whatever we can so it never happens again. Essentially, the mayor has apologized for the shortage. He has apologized to voters for having to wait.”

Menino will also have independent consultants review the election department, she said.

Mehigan said that every poll starts Election Day with enough ballots for 50 percent of the registered voters in its precinct. A delivery van supplies more if necessary. Even precincts that often have turnout above 50 percent, including some in JP, start with the same amount of ballots, Mehigan said. She blamed the shortage largely on delivery vans getting stuck in traffic.

Arroyo, a JP resident, is among the councilors calling for a hearing into the shortage problem. He told the Gazette the 50 percent policy makes no sense to him.

“We’re talking about a piece of paper,” Arroyo said. “What is expensive about having 300 pieces of paper instead of 150?”

He also expressed concern that the optical scanner machines introduced a few years ago may be a “backward move,” since they require a finite number of paper ballots, while the previous lever-action machines could count virtually unlimited votes.

He said that while he has received no ballot-shortage complaints from JP, “that’s exactly why a hearing is needed,” to find out if there were problems.

“Anybody who has experiences the council should review…or potential mistakes that could happen in the future, that’s what I want to hear about in that hearing,” he said.

With Patrick’s win over current Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, Republicans will soon hold only a tiny minority of seats in the state Legislature and no major, statewide executive offices.

Nationally, Democrats took over both houses of Congress.

Perhaps the happiest local officials are US Rep. Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch, who will now go from the minority to the majority party in the House. [See related article.]

Almost every other Jamaica Plain-area elected official ran unopposed or with only token opposition. They include local state Reps. Liz Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez and new Suffolk County criminal court clerk Maura Hennigan, a JP resident.

Sandra Storey contributed to this article.

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